With the National Hockey League set to resume play on Aug. 1, NBCUniversal said most of its sponsors will be returning for the delayed Stanley Cup playoffs.
“The vast majority of our hockey partners have come back,” said Dan Lovinger, executive VP, advertising sales, NBC Sports Group.
Lovinger noted that hockey was extremely well sold out when the season was suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic in March. The toughest conversations were the result of hockey moving from its spring finales to playoffs that will start in the summer and extend into the fall.
When the league suspended play, Lovinger said that advertisers were given an option. If the games are canceled, you can have your money back. If games were postponed, the buy was put on hold, and once the tames resume, “we’ll talk about the best way forward,” he said.
NBC’s first step when the NHL announced its plans for restarting, with teams playing in two Canadian cities, was to get sponsors to recommit.
Very few of NBC’s hockey sponsors are in categories that the pandemic has stopped from doing business, like films, airlines and other travel advertisers.
“Now we move into a scatter market that has been pretty good toward the end of the second quarter and into the third quarter,” he said.
With that foundation, Lovinger expects other advertisers looking to reach sports fans to buy into the Stanley Cup games.
“I think we certainly saw that with NASCAR and with Golf. What people are seeing is pent up demand,” he said, pointing to the record ratings the Yankees game pulled on ESPN when baseball season started.
Lovinger said NBC has also been doing NFL business. It has some clients on multiyear deals. It has also signed up marketers who are looking to build market programs around their NFL sponsorships. ”Virtually all of our marketing positions are claimed," he said. "We have precious few left.”
Negotiations with other advertisers have been affected by the delays in the upfront market, he noted.
NBC Sports also released a study that shows how much both sports fans and sponsors are affected by the absence of games on TV.
“What it really tells us is that sports is the ideal environment for unity and hope,” Lovinger said. “Given the current climate, regardless of age or gender or location, a sports fan is a sports fan. Sports can heal a lot of our society’s wounds.”
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